OSSINING – New York State and Entergy have reached an agreement for the shutdown of the two aging nuclear reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center by 2021.
These dates are very likely sooner than what could have been achieved through litigation, which could have dragged on much longer, with no guarantee of success. The agreement also cuts 14 years off the closing date requested by Entergy. Riverkeeper was party to the agreement on behalf of its partners, which include Scenic Hudson. Under this agreement:
The Unit 2 reactor will permanently cease operations no later than April 30, 2020 and the Unit 3 reactor will permanently cease operations no later than April 30, 2021.
Entergy will also move a set yearly number of spent fuel rods from their dangerous storage pools to dry cask storage on site — a much safer solution for this radioactive material.
Riverkeeper retains the right to compel full compliance with the closure agreement.
Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson have the right to challenge and take enforcement action against any future violations Entergy may commit at Indian Point.
The agreement includes an emergency provision that will allow the reactors to remain open for a maximum of four additional years — subject to approval by New York State — only by reason of war, a sudden increase in electrical demand, or a sudden shortage of electric energy. Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson will be able to challenge any extension of the 2020 and 2021 closure deadlines.
Entergy will amend its relicensing request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, asking for renewals until 2024 for Unit 2 and 2025 for Unit 3, accounting for the four additional “emergency” years.
The agreement includes further commitments by Entergy, including:
New safety inspections of “core baffle former” bolts. Entergy will conduct visual and ultrasonic inspections of critical baffle former bolts — which fasten together the plates surrounding the nuclear fuel that direct cooling water entering the reactor vessel — in Unit 3 in spring 2017 and in Unit 2 in 2018 and a repeat inspection for Unit 3 in 2019. It will also inspect all new bolts for degradation and replace bolts that are deficient.
In a March 2016 inspection at Unit 2, Entergy found that at least 227 of 832 bolts were either missing or impaired, degraded by the high levels of radiation inside the reactor. In a report to regulators, Entergy said that degraded and missing bolts created an “unanalyzed condition that significantly degrades plant safety.”
Annual inspections by New York State. Entergy has agreed to annual inspections by state-designated representatives on issues pertaining to continued operation of its two reactors through 2021. The duration and scope of, and participation in, the inspections will be agreed upon by Entergy and New York State in advance of each inspection.
Creation of a $15 million environment and community fund. To compensate for impacts on the Hudson River during the closure period, Entergy will establish a $15 million fund for river restoration and remediation as well as projects providing public benefits to the community. Environmental funding will prioritize dam removal, wetlands protection, control of invasive species and habitat surveys.
“This agreement provides what we’ve been fighting for for decades: a definite early closing date for Indian Point — our biggest existential threat in the region. It’s a win for the safety of our communities, a win for the Hudson River and all the rich variety of life within it, and a win for a clean, sustainable energy future,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said.
“Of particular interest to Riverkeeper during these negotiations were the provisions in the agreement to assure that Entergy’s continued authority to operate Indian Point would be shortened to reflect the plant’s agreed upon closure dates, and that there could be no extension of the 2021 shutdown deadline except due to a sudden and unexpected energy emergency. We wouldn’t have become a party to this agreement without such safeguards,” said Gallay. “Riverkeeper will play a major role in assuring the details of the agreement are strictly complied with.”
“Once Indian Point is closed, we won’t need to rely on fossil fuels to make up for its energy. Peak demand in the region will have declined by more than the 2,000 megawatts the plant generates, and the replacement power will be carbon neutral as the State further increases its clean energy investments,” said Gallay. “There will be little impact on electricity bills — between $1 and $2 dollars a month — which is a small price to pay for minimizing the risk that this plant poses. Going forward, new efficiency and renewable energy projects will drive still greater savings for consumers, thanks to aggressive energy investments by the state. It’s a new day for New York and the Metro region.”
Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper have been fighting for changes to Indian Point’s operations to halt the the killing of billions of aquatic organisms by its antiquated once-through cooling technology. Decades of such slaughter and habitat degradation have contributed to the decline of numerous important fish species in the river. Both organizations have also called for the plant’s shutdown, based on concerns related to safety, security, and environmental impacts, and have worked with many groups and state agencies toward this objective.
“Closure of Indian Point represents a landmark victory for the Hudson River and the people of New York.” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “Governor Cuomo promised to shut down the plant, and he has kept that important promise. We thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his important role. Scenic Hudson has worked for decades to stop the massive environmental damage to the Hudson River caused by the plant’s withdrawal of billions of gallons a day of cooling water. The accelerated closure and other provisions of the settlement will protect the health and safety of New Yorkers and the integrity of the Hudson River. Tireless advocacy over several decades by Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper and our partners has paved the way for a healthier Hudson River and a safer valley.”
“Governor Cuomo’s announcement is great news for the nearly 20 million people living within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point. NRDC has long opposed relicensing its two reactors because of Indian Point’s history of operational, safety and environmental problems, as well as the grave risk of a nuclear accident so close to the nation’s largest city, ” said Kit Kennedy, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Fortunately, Governor Cuomo’s groundbreaking clean energy policies will ease the transition to safer and cleaner power alternatives that don’t produce dangerous waste or increase carbon emissions. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s key role in this groundbreaking agreement also shows important leadership.”
“Governor Cuomo promised to close Indian Point and he flat out delivered,” said Riverkeeper board member Hamilton Fish. “And under Eric Schneiderman — also a party to this deal — the New York AG’s office has become the staunchest defender of the public interest in the nation. But ultimately this historic agreement is the legacy of all the citizen activists – at Scenic Hudson, NRDC, Clearwater, IPSEC, WESPAC and countless others – who have fought so tirelessly over the years to safeguard public health and to protect an endangered environment.”
“Thanks to Governor Cuomo for his tireless and tenacious efforts to close Indian Point,” Riverkeeper Vice Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said. “The agreement marks a milestone in America’s historic transition from a dirty, dangerous energy system to clean, safe, wholesome, local and patriotic power supply. It is a victory for the Hudson fishery, for public safety, and for the New York economy.”
Parties in the agreement include Riverkeeper, the State of New York, NYS Office of the Attorney General, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Health, NYS Department of State, NYS Department of Public Service, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 2, LLC, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 3 LLC and Entergy Nuclear Operations.
Reactors scheduled to cease operations within four years
Spent fuel will be transferred to secure ‘dry cask’ storage
More inspections of vital components will be required during operations
$15 million environment and community fund established
A copy of the signed agreement will be available at http://riverkeeper.org/.